AN AFTERNOON TRIP TO CASCATA DA FILVEDA & CASCATA DO RIO GRESSO
We enjoyed our recent trip to Sever do Vouga so much that I decided to plan a return trip to view a couple more spectacular waterfalls. There are so many to choose from in this area but I decided upon the Fílveda Waterfall and the River Gresso Waterfall. I usually prefer to venture out on an official PR hike of around 10 km which incorporates a waterfall but it is a long drive (1 hr 40 min) each way from our casa and quite a distance to just see one natural wonder so on this occasion we took the car to each location and hiked the short trails. The waterfalls are only a 15 min drive from each other so easy to view both in one afternoon. We have just experienced a week of rain followed by a couple of dry days so I was super excited to view the waterfalls as I knew the flow of water would be dramatic and fierce a bit like me (ha ha).
Cascata da Fílveda
The Fílveda Waterfall is located near the small town of Bouças, Dornelas, just over 3 km from the wonderful Cascata da Cabreia which we have already visited. It is famous for being one of the wildest waterfalls in Central Portugal so I was thrilled to visit. It’s also known as Cascata da Frágua da Pena, which is mildly confusing as there is another waterfall a few minutes from our home called Fraga da Pena. We often find that places here in Portugal have the same name yet can be a hundred km apart from each other, quite stressful when planning trips and GPS routes.
Leave the Roads and Take the Trails
We parked our car near some houses at the top of the trail and hiked the short distance (1 km each way) to the waterfall. The path is not suitable for cars and it’s a dirt track and continues onto a pedestrian only trail so it’s best to leave your car safe at the top. The hike down is short and easy with great signage. You fork off to the left through an amazing lush leafy forest bursting full of oak, pine and eucalyptus trees. It was a little wet and slippery underfoot so make sure you wear shoes with a proper grip and good tread. Although the trail is short in length there comes a time where it becomes more narrow, steep in decline and fairly demanding. The ground at this time of year is covered with leaves which often hide the moss covered rocks and stones. There is a wooden handrail but it was moist, cold and very slippery and slimy to hold on to, also it’s super wobbly in areas a bit like my legs (ha ha).
There is a quaint water mill ruin to view on the way down. The wooden staircase at the bottom of the trail consists of around 70 steep steps which were scattered with a few wet leaves so could be slippery at times and a potential hazard. We didn’t find the wooden steps slippery when we visited but the part just before the steps was pretty tricky to descend. The stones you need to position your feet on are situated quite far apart so it’s more than challenging for someone like me with short fat legs. We took a little rest for a snack and drink on one of the many wooden benches. It felt great to adopt the pace of nature for a while. There was even a bin here which one rarely sees at a waterfall so it was super clean and tidy.
Life is like a game of Chess
We found an excellent spot overlooking the waterfall to take a rest and watch the glory unfold. It was very surreal to just sit in silence and listen to the nature noises. Out of the corner of my eye I see hubby on his phone. He often lies and says he is checking GPS directions but in reality my nerdy bloke is playing chess. He is a participant in an online competition and apparently has to make 3 moves per day. I was mildly annoyed at him as he took the perfect picturesque moment to go on his phone and ruin the atmosphere. 3 bloody moves, I nearly pushed him 3 moves towards the edge of the waterfall and over the top (ha ha). I never use my phone when I am out hiking, I only have it for photos. I don’t check any missed calls or messages or go on social media as this time is precious. I like to switch off from technology and enjoy the surroundings around me. We all need this kind of therapy every now and then to reconnect with nature.
Life is like a game of chess. To win you have to make a move. Knowing which move to make comes with insight and knowledge, and by learning the lessons that are accumulated along the way. We become each and every piece within the game called life.” by Allan Rufus.
Coffee, coke or vodka! I’m not telling, it’s a secret, CHEERS (ha ha).
The World is made of Stairs
The world is made of stairs, and there are those who go up and those who go down. Unfortunately you need to go down these then back up them too (ha ha).
Motion & Emotion
As we got further to the bottom I could hear the rush of the water and as we arrived in close proximity we were vigorously sprayed with a mist of fresh pure water which certainly woke me up (ha ha). That was the end of my nice hair as a whiff of moisture turned my thinning mop into a crazy ball of fluff (ha ha). The waterfall is crazy, rapid and wonderful and I agree that it certainly is wild a lot like my hair now (ha ha). The waterfall consists of a succession of waterfalls that fall from the top of around 40 metres and forms little idyllic oasis rock pools. We decided to climb over the wooden barrier to get a closer view of all the glory and because there was an overhanging tree with foliage obscuring part of the view. Be careful as the rocks are so wet and I slipped a couple of times and nearly fell off the edge. We stood there for a while capturing the mood, feeling the wet, cold air on our face, listening to the roaring water, watching the fine mist dancing through the air and experiencing every emotion possible. I have never seen a waterfall so powerful, raging, fast and furious. The sound was deafening in a good way, I almost felt numb. It was such an amazing experience to stand there holding hubby’s hand and watch the water plunging down and dramatically crash against the eroded granite rocks at an immense speed and spray a fountain of aqua therapy all over my body.
I LOVE these photos as they really show the forceful spray.
Waterfall Soulmate Selfies
Explore the Hidden Treasure
Don’t miss this little hidden paradise in the upper area. What stupendous scenery, it was truly breathtaking. We nearly didn’t take this small pathway but am so glad that we are adventurers and like to explore all areas. Wow, what a tranquil place and so mystical with all the patches of moss peeking through the crevasse of rocks with grasses and ferns reflecting the light. Lots of awesome mushrooms sprouting everywhere, I LOVE mushroom art. Such a sensory overload with towering trees, vivid bright colours of the jade green moss covered rocks, red berries, autumnal browns, oranges and cloudy blue sky. We spent some time here admiring the beauty of all the inviting colours and listening to the water and birds chirping. This place would make an epic backdrop for wedding photos or a photo shoot. We saw many frogs, not surprising with all the water and rock pools which make excellent hideaways.
The day was sunny and cloudy and at times it was very misty. I don’t like driving through mist as I find it quite scary but it does make a great photo and reminds me of The Hobbit.
Cascata do Rio Gresso
The River Gresso Waterfall is just a short 15 minute car journey from Fílveda Waterfall. It is located in Sanfins, Rocas do Vouga. I must say that I wasn’t expecting too much from this waterfall. From my research I assumed that the Fílveda Waterfall would be the superior of the two, how wrong was I. We parked our car by the information sign post and took the trail through a scenic wooded area with hundreds of chestnuts underfoot and pretty winter blooms. You have the option to park closer to the start of the trail but if you do this you will miss out on smaller water courses and delightful views. You can also walk along the main road but why walk along a road with traffic when you can walk amongst nature. Just look at the colours of these photos, pure heaven and the contrast of bright blue sky with fluffy clouds against the misty mountains is gorgeous.
Tired of seeing Tyres
I have seen a few abandoned tyres in forest areas. It amazes me how they get there in the first place! Take your rubbish home with you folk and don’t abandon old tyres, take them to a recycling place, they are not going to compost down and we only have one planet so we need to work together to save our planet.
The trail we took was around 3.5 km there and back in total and the signage is great. It follows the path of the River Gresso which descends from the top of the Arestal mountains, at an altitude of almost 800 meters, to the Vouga river. I read that the route is via wooden pathways which partially it is but don’t expect the Portuguese traditional Passadiços which are easy to walk on and well maintained. In winter time the wooden walkways on this trail are covered in wet leaves and very slippery. There are also many other areas on the trail which just have rocks and stepping stones and muddy ground underfoot with the assistance of a wooden handrail for support so just to be aware that the whole route is not a wooden walkway. Be prepared to grab rocks, to climb like a mountain goat and get down and dirty (ha ha).
The route is amazing and I was not expecting to see so many smaller waterfalls and water courses en route. You walk through a magical forest bursting full of winter flowers and mushrooms of all different shapes, sizes, colours and textures. You cross many small bridges and quaint ruins of a water mill. All the water courses are surrounded by dense vegetation and pretty ferns. There are bushes with bright red berries which look very Christmassy. Many of the trees and rocks are covered in a bright jade green coloured moss which looks very wizardly and spellbinding. The trail was extremely wet underfoot in some areas during December so it is vital that you wear proper sturdy footwear with a good grip. It is the wettest trail I have encountered with plenty of wading through areas of water which is streaming down the pathways in some areas higher up.
Bridge over Troubled Water
The Mini Landslide
Just after the halfway point we stumbled across a major issue. Due to the recent heavy rainfall there had been a mini landslide and a large part of the pathway was destroyed from fallen trees and huge boulders, rocks, mud and earth. Basically the cliff side had collapsed making it virtually impossible to pass through. We weighed up the situation and although we are nutters and take risks there is always a time when common sense kicks in. If I attempt a dangerous climb and it gets to the stage where I really think I might die and I’m risking my life then I will turn back as I know my limits. I have turned back twice on hikes since living in Portugal, safety first folks. Anyway we decided to give it a try and it was the trickiest obstacle I have encountered on a hike. I literally had to straddle a huge boulder which was positioned on unstable mud and I had to negotiate smaller slippery rocks that dislodged and moved every time I stood on them. There was also a sheer drop to the right. I got spiked and trapped by thorns and covered in mud and moss. That sounds like a band name “Mud & Moss” (ha ha). It was harrowing and probably wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve had in my lifetime but we made it safely though. I’m not sure why I took the lead and went first, I think hubby encouraged me to go first to test the waters so to speak and see if I die or not (ha ha). My photos do not portray the sheer horror or health and safety risk but I wanted to share just in case you want to venture on this trail soon.
The Main Event
Wow, the main waterfall is so pretty and you get an amazing view from the bridge and a direct frontal view up close (that sounds a little rude – ha ha). We found an inviting grassy area next to the waterfall to lay our picnic blanket down and enjoy lunch. The water flow in Winter is very impressive and the mini lagoon at the bottom with crystal clear waters was awesome. I love all the green vegetation and shrubbery growing out of the middle of the cascading waterfall. This waterfall is part of an official PR hike so at this point you can continue on to the mines but we ventured back at this point. I was not looking forward to negotiating the tricky climb over the boulder again and we did discuss what would happen if the boulder had moved and we got trapped on this side with no escape route. I am not sure I would have faired well as I ate all my food (ha ha). Luckily we made it back to our car safe and sound and we live to tell the tale (ha ha).
Perfect Picnic with a View
Simply divine picnic spot. Hubby lost his banana so was a little sad. I offered him mine but he found it hiding under the picnic blanket. Hiking sure does make a girl hungry.
Challenging Tree Hugging
The traditional tree hug, epic as usual. I had to cling on for dear life so I didn’t fall off the edge this time. So many trees yet I choose one next to a sheer drop (ha ha). It’s not my fault as I didn’t choose the tree, the tree chose me.
I have never hiked in Winter time before. I don’t hike when it rains or embark on a trail after heavy rainfall without at least giving the area a couple of days of nice weather to dry out. My main reason for this is because the rocks become far too slippery and areas become boggy/muddy and are dangerous. I don’t want to risk a fall at my age as my recent running accident shook me to the core and resulted in multiple hospital visits and my shoulder is still recovering. I actually prefer hiking in Autumn and Winter as the weather is so mild here in Central Portugal and I don’t mind wearing layers and wrapping up if it gets too chilly. I feel the cold a lot due to my underactive thyroid but I wasn’t cold at all on this hike. I took a zip up hooded sweatshirt on this occasion but rarely wore it as it was around 16c and cloudy with plenty of sunshine. I did have a wooly hat and gloves in my bag as well as my sunglasses, I’m like a boy scout, prepared for every eventuality (ha ha).
We enjoyed a super Saturday immersed in mothers nature in the magical mountains. Another 2 magnificent waterfalls of Central Portugal. I know I always say this but no 2 waterfalls are alike. Every waterfall we visit is so very different and each one has their own unique vibe. I loved the Fílveda Waterfall due to it’s wild dramatic characteristics but I think I preferred the River Gresso Waterfall as the whole trail had more to offer and was such a serene journey apart from the boulder landslide. We are so very blessed to live so close to such awesome waterfalls. I actually prefer the waterfalls that require a bit of a hike to get too. Firstly it means that it’s more likely to be empty or fewer people there as some people are just plain lazy and want to drive everywhere. Secondly it’s almost like a reward when you hear the sound of gushing water, pick up your pace and first set eyes on the wonder after a long tiring hike, like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I also feel that such picturesque wonders of nature should take some effort for us to see. As always, we didn’t see one other person on either trail, not a single soul, we had both places all to ourselves which is becoming a trend but is so tranquil and romantic. I never take for granted the gift of each new day. There is something so healing and rewarding about spending time in nature and allowing my priorities to reset and my energies to recharge. We also got to view 4 spectacular Presépio whilst driving through all the little villages. If you LOVE Nativity Scenes as much as I do look out for my Portuguese Presépio post – coming soon I promise.
Hiking Girl Helen – Final Thoughts
Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world. In my case that’s Helen’s Happy Hiking shoes. Another amazing adventure chasing waterfalls with my soulmate in Sever do Vouga. The beauty of these places is unique. Get out and about and explore this wonderful country, breathe and be free.